Staying Cool in the Summer Sun

Posted August 23, 2023 by Angela Hatke

Summer is here and so is the heat! Humans stay cool by sweating, but animals are equipped to handle the heat too! Here at the Cincinnati Zoo, animals have plenty of water, pools, shade and access to cool areas inside.

Check out some of these amazing animal adaptations!

Sand Cat

The sand cat is equipped for desert life. Large ears radiate heat. Covered with hair, its footpads are insulated from the hot sand. During extreme heat, the sand cat cools off in a burrow. The sand cat does not need to drink often as it gets enough moisture from its prey.


Since they don’t sweat, elephants flap their large, thin ears to cool down the blood vessels across the ear, which then circulates throughout the body.

Elephants also love a good dust bath! The dirt protects their skin from insects and the heat from the sun. They also take a dip in rivers and watering holes and spray water onto them for even more of a cooling effect.


Giraffes live in exceptionally dry, hot conditions, but they don’t sweat. So how do they keep cool? The answer lies in their beautifully patterned skin, which acts like a network of thermal windows. Giraffes can direct their warmer blood to the vessels at the edges of the spots, forcing heat out of their bodies. And because they’re so big and there’s so much surface area for that skin, it’s a really effective way of cooling off.


Hippos spend most of their day in the water or mud to keep cool, wet, and protect their skin. When basking on land, hippos secrete an oily red sweat-like substance called blood sweat that moistens their skin, repels water, and protects them from the sun and germs.


Rhinos use mud to protect their skin from the sun, to cool off and to ward off parasites.


Kangaroos and wallabies lick their forearms to cool off and give off excess heat through their tails.


Unlike most cats, tigers are excellent swimmers and don’t avoid water, especially on hot days!


Meerkats have thin fur and dark skin on their stomachs that help them control body temperature. They can lie on their backs and get quickly warmed by the sun or lie stomach down on a cool rock in the heat of midday.